Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Making the Most of Your Rehearsal Time: Creative Warm Ups and Rehearsal Techniques

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Making the Most of Your Rehearsal Time: Creative Warm Ups and Rehearsal Techniques

Article excerpt

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article was published in Canadian Winds / Vents Canadiens. Parts of it are reprinted here with permission of the Canadian Band Association.

Do you vary your warm ups? Are the students tuning out because it's the "same old, same old"? In this article I hope to give you some new ideas for using warm up time productively, ensuring your students are focused and ready to rehearse so you can accomplish more in the short time you have.

A warm up should:

1 . Be more than a B-flat concert scale in whole notes.

2. Focus the ensemble; prepare students to rehearse.

3. Be connected to the repertoire - tonally, rhythmically.

4. Teach students to listen - for balance, blend, intonation, tone, texture

5. Train students to watch you. Vary the scales and chorales you do, and vary tempo, dynamics, style, etc. Students should not be on autopilot during a warm up.

First, Posture Check

On the piano, play major and minor triads, varying the sequence. Students stand when they hear minor and sit when they hear major (vary this, too). After a few repetitions they are sitting tall and ready to start the warm up with good posture. (And it trains their ears as well.)

Dalcroze-Inspired Warmups

Emile Jacques-Dalcroze developed his eurythmics (literally, "good rhythm") philosophy after observing talented students at the Geneva Conservatory struggling with pulse and rhythm. The basic tenets of eurythmics focus on experiencing music through all of the senses, especially body movement. Students feel the music first, through movement - they experience it rather than thinking through it (theory follows practice). The following exercises shift the responsibility for pulse over to the students, giving you more freedom to conduct the music and giving the students more ownership of their music-making.

The Changing Scale

Explain to students that the length of each note in the scale will depend on your conducting pattern. They will change scale degrees every time you come back to 1.

Ex. 1234 | 123 | 123456 | 12 | 12345 | 123 | 12 | 1234

Students can also play quarter notes for this exercise. If they play quarter notes, vary your conducting style to include: legato - staccato - tenuto - marcato articulation styles, giving students two musical concepts to focus on. (Add dynamics to make a third.)

The Disappearing Scale

Start the ensemble off without their instruments, and have them clap a subdivided 4 partem (eighth notes) together, counting aloud (1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+). Then have the students internalise the counting and clap one set. When clapping the second set, have them substitute a rest for count 8. When clapping the third set, have them substitute a rest for counts 7 and 8, and so on, until there is only silence. The next step, after all of the counts have changed to silence, is to continue through another set of rests, clapping count 8 aloud. The following set, clapping counts 7 and 8, and so on, until all of the notes have returned. The teacher should not lead this exercise. Rather, the students should be responsible for the pulse.

The Disappearing Scale - Variation 1

Returning to the instruments, have the students play a scale, ascending and descending in quarter notes, without repeating the tonic or stopping between notes. Students should breathe where necessary. Follow the same format as above, replacing the 8th scale degree, then the 7rh and 8th, and so on. Again, after starring the students, the teacher should not lead the exercise to allow the students to feel the pulse and listen to one another.

The Disappearing Scale - Variation 2

Return to the scale, ascending and descending in a loop, in quarter notes. Have the students settle into a pulse and then introduce this element: when you raise your hand, the students continue (the scale) in silence. When you lower your hand a few beats later, the sound returns on the appropriate scale degree. …

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